So much for the weekend ballot counting. On Friday, Martha McSally’s team predicted a boost in ballots for the Republican candidate as specific returns got calculated from the massive numbers of ballots left to count. Instead, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema’s lead grew over the weekend to over 32,000. “The end is in sight,” says NBC’s local affiliate, and it’s beginning to look like the GOP has lost a seat that should have been a hold, albeit with some effort:
Maricopa County submitted an estimated 36,000 counted ballots Sunday and Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema’s lead has grown again over Republican candidate Martha McSally.
Prior to Maricopa County’s ballot drop around 5 p.m., Sinema led by 30,416 votes. She led by 32,640 votes following Maricopa’s drop.
Around 6 p.m., Pinal County submitted counted ballots to the state and McSally gained about 400 votes. Yavapai County posted to the state just before 8 p.m. and Sinema’s lead is now 32,169 votes.
Rather than make a comeback on Saturday, McSally fell farther behind after 96,000 ballots got counted in Maricopa and Pima counties. The gap widened to almost 29,000 after Saturday’s counts and widened again yesterday. There are about 162,000 ballots left to count in Maricopa and 215,000 overall in the state, USA Today reports, which will take another few days to complete:
The lengthy vote-count process, which has continued long after the polls closed Nov. 6, is mostly due to the need to verify signatures for voters who vote by mail.
The Arizona Republic estimates about 215,000 ballots remain to be counted statewide.
To remain competitive, McSally needs to outperform all of her previous showings in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous area and one that Sinema has dominated.
McSally would have to win 58% of all the outstanding ballots in order to overtake Sinema at this point. That’s not impossible, but it’s getting a lot less likely, especially since most of those come from Maricopa County, where Sinema is getting 51% of the vote. If Sinema gets 51% of the outstanding ballots in Maricopa, she’ll add another 3,240 votes to her lead — which would mean McSally would have to get around 36,000 of the other 53,000 ballots left to count elsewhere in the state, a 67% rate.
How did McSally manage to lose this race, if in fact that’s what happens? She got 180,000 votes fewer than Doug Ducey did in his easy win for re-election; had McSally converted just a third of the difference, she’d be leading rather than Sinema. Perhaps the anger over the Kavanaugh confirmation worked against the GOP in this state rather than in favor of the party, but whatever the reason, McSally seriously underperformed despite Republican gains in early voting.
McSally may not be done, though, even if she comes up short in the ballot count. Jon Kyl will resign the other Senate seat in the next few weeks to return to his private-sector work, and Ducey will have to appoint someone for the final three-plus years of the late John McCain’s term [see update below]. He could choose to appoint McSally to give her the edge of incumbency the next time out — or he might worry enough about her ability to hold the seat to look around a little more.
Update: As one reader reminded me, McCain’s term runs through 2022, so Arizona will hold a special election in 2020 to fill the remainder of it. Had McCain resigned his seat before June 1, Arizona would have had to hold that election this year.